Unification News for February 1999
Blessing 99 by Satellite in New York City
By Rev. Eric Holt
On a rather chilly Sunday afternoon on February 7, 1,500 people gathered in the ballroom of New York City’s Manhattan Center for the satellite transmission of the 360 Million Couple Blessing (Seoul, Korea).
Even before the doors opened, people started lining up for the 4:00 p.m. reception. A brief snowfall did not deter people from coming. As the reception began, guests downed coffee, soft drinks and snacks as they mentally prepared for the largest Blessing ever. Meanwhile, in a specially prepared area behind the stage, Dr. and Mrs. Dietrich Seidel conducted the Holy Wine Ceremony, assisted by Irene Olivier and Irina Kouznetsova. We expected only 30 couples for the Holy Wine Ceremony. But, after 30 minutes the number was up to 60 couples; this was due to last minute matchings and certain other couples who requested to receive the Holy Wine, including a couple from the United Nations. The Holy Spirit was moving throughout Holy Wine Ceremony, and it took much longer than expected. Most couples were moved to tears during the inspiring ceremony.
Towards the end of the reception, the emcee (Rev. Daryl Clarke, UC Westchester pastor) and the ushers re-arranged the seating so that men and women were lined up in columns, Blessing-style. Especially in the center section of the hall, women wore veils, and were lined up behind each other, and sitting next to their spouse. When we advertised the event, we had asked everyone to follow a dress code: blue suits and white shirts for men, and white/light dresses for women. In addition to the women receiving veils and hand-bouquets, the men were given boutonnieres and white Blessing scarves. The finished product was an event that resembled a mini-Blessing 98 (Madison Square Garden.) The large center section with around 200 couples lined up Blessing-style was a beautiful sight to behold. This was all the more inspiring because, when we eventually went to the satellite transmission, we saw a similar sight, although on a much grander scale (!), (and considerably more chilly), in Korea.
Local religious leaders sat on the stage, facing the audience. In American Christian churches it is a tradition that a visiting clergyman will be escorted to the front/sanctuary section of a church or chapel. So, we honored this tradition by doing this. In God’s providence, America has a unique role especially in regard to the work of Jesus through the Christian churches. So, we wanted to let our fellow clergy from many denominations participate in the event to the fullest extent. As it turned out, around twenty clergy sat on the stage.
The program began at 5:00 p.m. with a 40-minute pro-family rally, along the lines of the Blessing 98 (MSG) event. The Chambers Memorial Baptist Church Choir from Harlem burst into song. They had participated in the 2,000-voice choir at MSG. Also, their co-pastors, Rev. and Mrs. Lawrence Edgerton sat on the stage later. After the choir, the emcee introduced Harlem activist Professor Preston Wilcox who spoke about family values and transcending racial boundaries. His speech was very well received. Professor Wilcox has been very supportive of FFWPU. Following Professor Wilcox, Margaret Hill-Vanderstok, from the Pure Love Alliance spoke passionately about purity and preparation for marriage. Then, Bishop Eric Figueroa of the New Life Tabernacle from Brooklyn, NY, gave excellent spiritual and practical advice to the couples in his impassioned mini-sermon. The pro-family rally concluded with a rousing rendition from the New Life Tabernacle Choir.
At 5:40 p.m., the emcee announced that the (delayed) satellite transmission would begin. The hall became hushed as we waited in expectation for the curtains to open. After a brief wait, the curtains slowly moved, and we gasped as we saw a packed Olympic Stadium in Seoul, Korea; (later reports revealed a crowd of 150,000 with 30,000 unable to get in.) The cameras panned over all the soon-to-be-Blessed couples, dressed in white (the women that is). Several minutes later, it was time for the national anthem. In Korea, the Korean national anthem was sung. We closed the curtains, while Raoul Joseph sang the U.S. national anthem. The curtains opened again and we listened and observed as the various religious leaders offered their Blessings and prayers.
When it was time for the Ceremony, three couples in Holy Robes entered on to the stage. This took place at the same time as the entrance of the officiators in Seoul. Then, when True Parents descended the steps in the stadium, our officiating couple, Manhattan pastors Rev. and Mrs. Chen Fong, descended the stairs on the stage followed by two bowl-bearing, robe-clad sisters. The Fong couple sprinkled the first row of couples at the same time as True Parents sprinkled Holy Water on the couples in Korea. Then, the Fongs read the 4 Holy Blessing Vows, in English, while the sound was turned down from the Stadium in Korea. When it was time for the Blessing prayer, Rev. and Mrs. Lawrence Edgerton, dressed in their white robes leapt to center stage and joined the Fong couple to pray for the newlyweds. Several other ministers on the stage raised their hands to pray for and bless the couples. It was a truly inspirational and interdenominational moment!
As the satellite transmission concluded, we proceeded to the banquet and entertainment. All were treated to a sumptuous banquet served by tuxedo-clad attendants. The New Life Tabernacle Choir sung again as well as the harmonious "His Voice Gospel Ministry Choir". This was followed by Barney Webster, a modern dancer from Harlem. The event concluded with Electric Duro, a (loud!) Latin band. Many people broke into dance and the event concluded with song, dance, wedding cake… and cherished memories.
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